Today I speak with former Riders slotback James “Duke” Ellingson. Where Are They Now is brought to you by the Emerald Park Boston Pizza.
Me: It’s called Where Are They Now…so where do we find you today?
Duke: I’m in Ottawa, and I’ve lived here since Saskatchewan traded me to the Ottawa in 1990. I’m currently working as an analyst on the REDBLACKS broadcasts. I do the pre-game, half-time and post game like you Ballsy.
Me: So how do you view the game as a media member as opposed to when you played?
Duke: As a player you know what goes on during the game and in the locker room so you can relay that to the listener. I realize watching now as a media member just how much bigger and faster the players are today. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I ever did it.
Me: Could James Ellingson get 1000 yards receiving today with way the rules are called?
Duke: Well maybe especially now since receivers can be off side at the snap of the ball because I wasn’t the fleetest of foot.
Me: I hate the fact the officials let the receivers run off side.
Duke: It’s the “Ray Elgaard” rule and it’s crazy how they just look the other way. Back in the day we had to be behind the line at the snap of the ball. A defensive lineman flinches and he gets called but a receiver can do no wrong or so it seems.
Me: Do you like this version of the CFL?
Duke: I don’t like the fact everything is run from the shotgun. You never see the QB line up under centre and nobody uses a full back. They are no “I formations” and I believe that is why quarterback injuries are on the rise. On the defensive side they play umbrella coverage so teams have to nickel and dime things down the field and it eliminates a lot of big plays.
Me: How did you get the nickname Duke?
Duke: Ray Elgaard came up with it. My name sounds like Ellington and of course the great jazz musician was Duke Ellington, so Ray started calling me Duke and it stuck. Everybody but my wife calls my Duke.
Me: When I say 1989 season what comes to mind?
Duke: Greatest football year in my life, and I was proud to contribute here and there. It was a team that had so many great veteran guys and great veteran receivers. I was apart of the greatest Grey Cup game ever played and I’m proud of that for sure!
Me: You Duke the Riders probably don’t get to that game without your performance in the playoffs.
Duke: Both Jeff Fairholm and Ray were injured on and off during the season at one point we didn’t think they’d be playing in the post season. It gave me the chance to get my feet under me and be ready for the playoffs.
Me: Did you wear those glass cutter gloves?
Duke: I sure did! Jeff brought them up from the USA and I was on board immediately as they were really sticky. I wore them that entire 1989 season and I took them to Ottawa after I was dealt. I was the only guy who wore them with the eastern Riders.
Me: If you had to write a letter to young James what would you tell him?
Duke: Great question Ballsy. I would say train really hard because the game is really tough played by big, fast, athletic men. I would also tell the young me to quit being so nervous and to just go out there and have fun. I always struggled with self confidence so if I dropped a pass it would turn into 3 bad plays. Just enjoy the moment because you’re getting paid to play a kids game!